On Saturday morning Chris Teskey from the community radio station WPKN in Bridgeport, CT visited some of the members of Valley Free Radio in Northampton. I went expecting a sobering reality check, given that WPKN has been around for 30 years, and VFR a little more than 2 years. They must have their shit together, being professional, not in crisis mode all the time, right? Ah, not so quick.
Chris reassured us that putting out fires and keeping the latest crisis in check is what running a community radio station is all about, that what many of the people at VFR feel is normal. That was great news, I think, and it seemed like the round table discussion helped the VFR folks in a couple of different ways: 1) reassuring us that crisis in not the end of the world, that we just had to be consistantly there for the community, and 2) giving us some specific glimpses at what kind of work that’s needed to build a long lasting community radio station.
WPKN is a much bigger station than VFR (10,000 watts compared to 100), but I believe VFR has the potential to match their donor database number of 7,000. It’s going to take a lot of work, and it won’t happen in the next year, but if VFR can survive 30 years then I think it can find 7,000 people willing to contribute to its community radio station.
If you’re interested in listening to some of the round table discussion, check out the sound files on the Community Radio Hour blog.